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Rumors of ‘costly midfielder’ run wild after Vietnam football thrives in Asian playground

Monday, October 01, 2018, 05:04 GMT+7
Rumors of ‘costly midfielder’ run wild after Vietnam football thrives in Asian playground
Vietnam's Nguyen Quang Hai (right) celebrates after the second goal in their match against Qatar in the semifinals of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China on January 23, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A Vietnamese midfielder has become the talk of the town in a series of transfer rumors after his great contribution to the country’s amazing runs at the 2018 Asian Games (Asiad) in Indonesia and the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in China.

Transfers are common off the back of international tournaments.

Right after the successive turns for the better of Vietnamese men’s football in the Asian playground, there has been speculation that the ‘Golden Boys’ of a young generation of Vietnamese players will soon be playing in foreign football leagues.

Most of the prominent rumors, including an offer of more than €3 million (US$3.5 million) and being targeted by international football clubs in Japan, Argentina and Thailand, revolve around attacking midfielder Nguyen Quang Hai.

Rising star

Nguyen Quang Hai, born in 1997, started to play for Vietnam’s U-16 team in 2011, when he was only 14.

Hai made his international debut and scored his first goal for the Vietnamese senior team in 2017.

At football club level, Hai currently plays for Hanoi F.C. at V.League 1, the top professional football league in Vietnam.

He became popular during the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship in January in China, as he was instrumental in leading Vietnam to the country’s first-ever final at an AFC tournament.

During the competition, Hai scored five goals, including Vietnam’s only goal in the final against Uzbekistan, where they lost 2-1 in extra time. That goal was later voted the best goal in the tournament.

In the 2018 Asiad men’s football competition in Indonesia in August-September, the midfielder continued to contribute to Vietnam’s ultimate finish at the fourth place, where his team lost the bronze-medal match against the United Arab Emirates on penalties.

Hai’s memories of the tournament will remain bittersweet as he himself missed a penalty in the shootout.

Despite that, the 2018 Asian Games is considered a successful campaign for the Vietnamese men’s football team.

And Hai was listed as one of the top Asian Games stars expected to shine at the upcoming 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE next January, according to the website of the Asian Football Confederation, the-afc.com.

Rumors and truth

In September, rumor had it that Japanese football club Renofa Yamaguchi playing at J-League 2, the second-tier professional football league in Japan, sent a letter to Hanoi F.C., expressing its interest in the 21-year-old midfielder.

Shortly after that, many news websites of Vietnam also reported that an Argentine football club had asked to sign Hai for €3 million.

Likewise, other newspapers said that the deep-pocketed Thai football club Muangthong United in the Thai League 1, the country's top premier football competition, had joined the race to have the signature of the Vietnamese U-23 midfielder.

From a young player in a ‘low-key country’ of world football, Hai is described as if he were rising to the international level under the aforementioned rumors.

However, none of these rumors are true.

Vietnam's Nguyen Quang Hai (right) celebrates after a goal in their match against Uzbekistan in the final of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China on January 27, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Vietnam's Nguyen Quang Hai (right) celebrates after a goal in their match against Uzbekistan in the final of the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China on January 27, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The most accurate news is probably just the fact that Renofa Yamaguchi sent a letter of interest, rather than a purchase offer, to Hai.

But Renofa Yamaguchi just rank in the bottom half of J-League 2’s table, the same level as Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, where veteran Vietnamese football star Le Cong Vinh used to play five years ago.

It is not to mention that Renofa Yamaguchi only ‘showed interest’ in Hai, rather than putting any deal up for discussion.

Vietnam has in fact established connections with several second-class Japanese football clubs such as Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and Mito Hollyhock, where Cong Phuong, a young star striker and Hai’s U23 teammate, once played.

Therefore, it is not really something big that a Japanese side knows about Hai.

The rumor that Muangthong United keep an eye on Hai is also inaccurate.

Muangthong currently rank 17th in the Football Database’s ranking table of Asian football clubs.

Having a large number of football academies and sponsorship agreements worth tens of millions of U.S. dollars, the Thai football club have long reached the continent’s professional level.

Playing for Muangthong will be definitely a significant step forward for Hai.

However, the Thai football team’s leaders told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that they had no plan to buy Hai, adding that they knew nothing about the transfer rumor.

And that an Argentine football club asked to buy Hai for €3 million is just the most absurd rumor.                                                   

Along with Brazil and Spain, Argentina is considered one of the countries with the most talented footballers in the world.

The player scouts working for the world’s top football clubs always rush to the South American country to spot young football talents.

And rarely does the opposite scenario, where an Argentine football side flies half the globe to find and sign a foreign footballer, happen.

Argentine football clubs are known for employing no players outside South America.

According to Transfermarkt, a prestigious German-based website providing all footballing information, the total number of foreigners playing for the 26 football clubs in Argentina’s premier football division Superliga Argentina is 95, of which only two are from outside the South American border, and both African players.

Little fish in the ocean

On Transfermarkt, which is often used as a benchmark for footballers pricing on a global scale, Nguyen Quang Hai is still an unknown player that has even not been priced, although he and his national teammates Bui Tien Dung, Ho Tan Tai and Ha Duc Chinh are a few Vietnamese players having their profiles updated on the website.

Only three members of the Vietnamese team that finished fourth in the 2018 Asian Games are priced on Transfermarkt.

They are Luong Xuan Truong and Nguyen Anh Duc, both priced at €50,000 ($58,107), and Cong Phuong, €25,000 ($29,000). These prices are far below the “millions of dollars” rates in the groundless rumors.

In terms of the valuation of players, performance at club level is still considered the most important factor, according to experts.

However, most Vietnamese footballers are out of the game as V-League 1 is not widely known in Asian football.

Particularly, Football Database ranked Hai’s Hanoi F.C. 238th among Asian football clubs.

On the other hand, international football clubs do not always pay attention to talents from countries of little names on the world’s football map, according to Jules Mariner, a scout working for football clubs at the French professional football league Ligue 2.

“Buying young players, especially those from national leagues, is always risky,” Mariner told Tuoi Tre reporters during the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea.

“Many players play well in the national teams, but cannot maintain their form at football clubs,” the scout explained.

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Bao Anh / Tuoi Tre News

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